By W. H. Walsh
Advent to the character of ancient rationalization
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This causal link in the political history, however, is not what most preoccupied chroniclers when they 36 M. Bonner, “Al-Khalı¯fa al-Mard·¯ı: the Accession of Ha¯ru¯n Al-Rashı¯d,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108 (1988), 79–92. 32 Reinterpreting Islamic historiography explored al-Rashı¯d’s reign. To medieval chroniclers, the reigns of al-Rashı¯d, al-Amı¯n, and al-Ma mu¯n represented an integrated stretch of familial, political, and social history in which the change in one reign heralded profound change in the other.
But the story of the caliphate actually forms a carefully crafted tale whose purpose was much less to entertain than to address controversial views and religious, cultural, and moral issues most hotly contested in the century immediately following al-Rashı¯d’s death. The elements of idealization of al-Rashı¯d The legendary image of the caliph that arises from the entertaining tales of The Thousand and One Nights represents a spin-oﬀ from an earlier form of idealization whose roots can still be found in the historical sources.
Equally important were the political motives of the time. Exotic lifestyle aside, Ha¯ru¯n was also a serious political matter, especially because he also showed an admirable side. His successful military career, combined with various anecdotes about his generosity, gallantry, and dignity, stimulated an idealized portrait of the caliph, which 15 This view has been followed into this decade by the most recent observer on the subject, C. E. ” (Bosworth, HT, xxx, xx). Some of the variant new angles on Abba¯sid history include: M.
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